So that was the 2022-23 LaLiga season. With just one round of games left to play, it's all wrapped up except for the last relegation spot, and one European place. Barcelona were crowned champions, well ahead of nearest rivals Real Madrid. Atletico Madrid and -- for the first time in a decade -- Real Sociedad joined them in the top four. Copa del Rey finalists Osasuna impressed, Girona and Rayo Vallecano punched above their weight, and big clubs Sevilla and Valencia both flirted with relegation.
When it comes to picking a team of the season, some names are obvious. The debate over LaLiga's MVP comes down to a head-to-head between Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen -- the key man in their 26 clean sheets -- and Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, the most influential player since the midseason World Cup break. When it comes to disappointing players, it's hard to look beyond Sevilla and Valencia, but there are some underwhelming candidates from higher up the table, too.
ESPN's Sam Marsden and Alex Kirkland pick their best and worst XIs of the LaLiga season -- plus some names who just missed the cut -- and justify their selections.
BEST XI OF 2022-23
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Arnau Martinez (Girona), Ronald Araujo (Barcelona), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Fran Garcia (Rayo Vallecano)
Midfielders: Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona); Isi Palazon (Rayo Vallecano)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Joselu (Espanyol)
Substitutes: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Pedri (Barcelona), Lee Kang-In (Real Mallorca), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona).
Ter Stegen is a no-brainer in goal. Barcelona's defence wasn't always as convincing as a unit as their numbers suggest, but the 31-year-old goalkeeper had the best season of his career. Courtois has to settle for a place as a substitute.
In defence, right-back Martinez represents Girona's outstanding season. Coach Michel called him his team's smartest player, aged 20. Araujo was the quickest and strongest defender in Spain, and his duels with Vinicius Jr. were one of the season's highlights. Militao wasn't far off when fully focused. Flying left-back Garcia played well enough to earn a €5m move back to Real Madrid this summer.
Real Sociedad's top-four finish means they demand an inclusion. Merino isn't their flashiest or noisiest player, but he might be their most important. In a similar vein, De Jong doesn't get the headlines of youngsters Pedri and Gavi, but overall he's been more important than either. Isi scored some glorious goals for Rayo and fills the crucial "shaven-headed playmaker" role.
Griezmann was the league's best outfield player, with 15 goals and 14 assists, which is remarkable given he began the season on the bench thanks to Atletico's row with Barca over the terms of a permanent transfer. Vinicius has been electric, with a league-high 108 successful take-ons (Mallorca's Lee Kang-In, in second, has 86). And yes, Robert Lewandowski has been the best centre-forward in LaLiga this season -- despite his mid-season slump -- but Joselu scored 16 league goals for relegated Espanyol. -- Kirkland.
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Nahuel Molina (Atletico), Ronald Araujo (Barcelona) Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Dani Parejo (Villarreal), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Pedri (Barcelona)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Vinicius Jr. (Real Madrid)
Substitutes: Jeremias Ledesma (Cadiz), David Garcia (Osasuna), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Gabri Veiga (Celta Vigo), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Isi Palazon (Rayo Vallecano), Take Kubo (Real Sociedad.)
Barcelona ran away with LaLiga this season thanks to their consistency and a stingy defence, so it felt natural for them to be strongly represented in this team. In fact, after keeping a league record 26 clean sheets -- they could yet make it 27 in their final game -- you could even make a case for Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen to be included here as well.
Instead, Molina, who took his game to new levels after winning the World Cup with Argentina in December, features at right-back. He has been one of the stars of Atletico's brilliant form in 2023. Real Madrid's Eder Militao completes the backline. The Brazilian's form has dipped in the final few weeks of the season, but before then he looked like one of the best centre-backs in the world.
Osasuna's Garcia and Real Sociedad's Le Normand both make the bench after memorable seasons with their respective clubs, with Girona's Martinez and Rayo Vallecano's Real Madrid-bound Garcia just missing out.
Midfield was harder to pick. After qualifying for the Champions League, any number of Real Sociedad players could have been included. Mikel Merino is. Martin Zubimendi, David Silva and Brais Mendez miss out. Pedri joins Merino. He makes Barcelona tick and they look a different side without him.
Parejo, who is one of just two players in the league to complete over 2,000 passes, completes the trio. The former Valencia man has been the focal point of Quique Setien's Villarreal side as they have risen up the table to fifth. Barca's De Jong and Celta Vigo's Veiga feature on the bench.
In attack, Griezmann has a good case to be considered the player of the season. He has certainly been the league's standout performer in the second half of the campaign. The France international helped Atletico qualify for the Champions League for the 11th successive year, despite doubts at the turn of the year about their direction under coach Diego Simeone.
There has been criticism of Lewandowski since the World Cup but his explosive start to the campaign, including winning goals against Valencia and Mallorca, laid the foundations for Barca's title success. He is set to end his first season in Spain as the league's top scorer with 23, with one game still to go, and has also contributed seven assists for a league-high 30 goal contributions.
Vinicius, with 10 goals and nine assists, rounds off the attack. There is no more frightening winger in Spain -- if not Europe. Rayo Vallecano's Isi and Real Sociedad's Kubo make the bench, with honourable mentions for Real Betis' Borja Iglesias, Espanyol's Joselu, Mallorca's Vedat Muriqi and Villarreal's Nicolas Jackson, whose run of form came slightly too late. -- Marsden
WORST XI OF 2022-23
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina (Villarreal)
Defenders: Matt Doherty (Atletico Madrid), Luiz Felipe (Real Betis), Tanguy Nianzou (Sevilla), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Ilaix Moriba (Valencia), Isco (Sevilla), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Kasper Dolberg (Sevilla), Raul de Tomas (Rayo Vallecano)
Substitutes: Benjamin Lecomte (Espanyol), Marcao (Sevilla), Eric Garcia (Barcelona), Carles Alena (Getafe), Memphis Depay (Atletico Madrid), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Edinson Cavani (Valencia).
Villarreal thought it was a good idea to let goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli -- who, despite his occasional howlers, had the second-best save percentage in LaLiga -- join Ajax in January and rely on the ageing Reina, now 40. It wasn't.
In defence, Doherty arrived at Atletico Madrid in January billed as the new Kieran Trippier. He wasn't, either. Doherty has made just two, forgettable late substitute appearances in four months. Luiz Felipe earns his selection for his three red cards, part of a Real Betis team that constantly seemed to be down to 10 men. A Sevilla defender is a must -- especially in their chaotic, mid-season Jorge Sampaoli era -- and the hapless Nianzou makes the team just ahead of the forever injured Marcao. At left-back, Mendy struggled with injuries too, and Real Madrid's patience with him is close to running out.
Valencia's midfield has been a problem all season, and the once highly-rated Moriba hasn't contributed nearly as much as he should. Isco, meanwhile, only lasted five months at Sevilla before his contract was terminated. Joao Felix stuck it out a little longer at Atletico, joining Chelsea on loan in January. The team's form -- and dressing room unity -- improved markedly after his departure.
It's no surprise to find Hazard in an underperforming XI, but this was a poor season even by his standards, with just two league starts. Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti started the season insisting he could act as a back-up to Benzema. He ended it refusing to pick him when he was one of just two fit senior forwards in the squad.
Ex-wonderkid Dolberg was another misfire from Sevilla sporting director Monchi, scoring no goals in his four months in LaLiga. And it was a season to forget for De Tomas. His move from Espanyol to Rayo collapsed at the end of the summer window and was eventually completed three months later, leaving him unable to play until January. His four goals came in May, but it felt like much too little, too late. -- Kirkland
Goalkeeper: Benjamin Lecomte/Alvaro Fernandez/Fernando Pacheco (Espanyol)
Defenders: Hector Bellerin (Barcelona), Tanguy Nianzou (Sevilla), Leandro Cabrera (Espanyol), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao), Isco (Sevilla)
Forwards: Ferran Torres (Barca), Edinson Cavani (Valencia), Joao Felix (Atletico)
Substitutes: Bono (Sevilla), Sergi Gomez (Espanyol), Eric Garcia (Barca), Pedro Bigas (Elche), Ilaix Moriba (Valencia), Raul de Tomas (Rayo), Portu (Getafe)
Espanyol will be playing in the second division next season and it's mainly because of their defence. They have conceded a league-high 66 goals. They never managed to find a safe pair of hands in goal, going through Lecomte, Fernandez and Pacheco. Defender Cabrera was booed by his own fans after a horror show against Sevilla earlier in the season.
The full-backs are Madrid's Mendy, who may find himself replaced at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, and Hector Bellerin, who joined Barca in August and left in January.
Sevilla -- who have salvaged their campaign with a run to the Europa League final -- and Valencia have been the big disappointments in LaLiga this season and feature heavily in this XI. Both will look at summer signings that have not worked out as they would have liked with regret.
Isco arrived at Sevilla from Madrid with the hope that he would be able to re-establish his career with a leading role at a new club. What actually happened was he made 12 mediocre appearances in the league before leaving as a free agent in December after falling out with sporting director Monchi. He has been without a club since. Elsewhere, Tanguy Nianzou arrived from Bayern Munich for €16m to replace the outgoing defenders Kounde and Diego Carlos, but he has failed to establish himself in the team. Time is on his side, at least.
For Valencia, five goals in 24 league games from Cavani has not matched the expectations they had when the veteran Uruguay striker arrived. Midfielder Moriba, who returned on loan from RB Leipzig after a decent spell at Mestalla last season, has also flattered to deceive.
Elsewhere, €55m signing Torres has lost his place at Barca, restricted to 13 league starts and just four goals, and Atletico were a much better team without Joao Felix, who cost them €126m in 2019, than with him. Their best form of the season coincided with his departure on loan to Chelsea in the January transfer window. Sticking with Atletico, Llorente's progress appears to have halted, while Herrera's homecoming at Athletic Club, following spells with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, has been a letdown so far, mainly due to injuries. -- Marsden.